While the divided Congress has disagreed sharply over the past year about changing the country's gun laws, today the House of Representatives came together to extend a ban on the possession of undetectable firearms, including plastic weapons produced by 3-D printer technology.
In a voice vote Tuesday afternoon, the House passed H.R. 3626, extending the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 for 10 years. The law explicitly prohibits the possession or manufacturing of firearms undetectable by X-ray machines and metal detectors at security checkpoints around the country.
Congress passed the original law in 1988, and had previously extended it twice. The current ban expires on Dec. 9, leaving little time for the Senate to follow the House's lead when the upper chamber returns from its Thanksgiving recess next Monday.
"While we have heard that some want to amend the bill when it arrives in the Senate, I urge our colleagues on the other side of Capitol Hill to quickly enact a clean 10-year reauthorization so that this ban on undetectable weapons will not expire," Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., stated after the vote.
Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., called the extension "a matter of common sense" that will make it tougher for terrorists and criminals to bring guns into secure environments.
"In 1988, when we passed the Undetectable Firearms Act, the notion of a 3-D printed plastic firearm slipped through metal detectors, onto our planes in secure environments was a matter of science fiction," Israel said during the floor debate on the bill. "The problem is that today it is a reality."
The move comes after numerous reports this year that lethal plastic weapons could be built at home with the emerging printing technology. Last month, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives detailed the increasing threat of undetectable firearms. Designs for firearms, such as an AR-15, are spread throughout the Internet.
"We did the right thing today, acting in a responsible manner to maintain public safety standards. Ensuring that all families have safe access to airports and other public spaces is an obligation we all share," Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., wrote in a statement after the House acted to extend the ban. "Advancements in technology have created new challenges for law enforcement and serious public safety concerns. This common sense legislation helps to support the men and women working to keep our communities safe by banning lethal firearms that can slip past metal detectors."